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Are poinsettias poisonous?

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on December 8th, 2023

With the holidays just around the corner, let’s address the pets and poinsettia issue head on.

The popular Christmas plant, known as Euphorbia pulcherrima, is only mildly toxic to cats and dogs.

In fact, Pet Poison Helpline said the plant has gotten a bad rap since the poisoning part is greatly exaggerated. The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals that when ingested, can cause mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea. However, due to the plant’s low level of toxicity, medical treatment is rarely necessary.

That said, many clinics do see a rise in emergency visits over the holidays for everything from pets eating from holly to tinsel. While the season is a joyous time for many, it can also expose our furry friends to extra dangers. Following these tips will help you avoid the Christmas rush – to the vet.

Holiday plants

No kisses under the mistletoe! This and other common holiday plants, such as Christmas Roses and holly, are toxic to dogs and cats. Here are some of the most common poisonous holiday plants for pets. For a full list, refer to the ASPCA's extensive list of poisonous plans for dogs and cats.

  • Azalea
  • Amaryllis
  • Evergreen
  • Ivy
  • Lily (especially toxic to cats)
  • Juniper
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Poinsettias (Low in toxicity)

If your fur friend is the type that shows interest in plants, it may be best to just go the artificial route.

Secure the tree, decorations

Christmas trees can be hazardous to your pets if not properly secured. Spot Pet Insurance recommends it is securely anchored – including to the wall - so it doesn’t fall over and harm your pet.

One of the biggest holiday dangers, especially for cats, is ribbon and tinsel. If they get ingested, these items can actually get caught in their intestines, causing an intestinal blockage. Suddenly, a pretty holiday decoration can lead to emergency surgery! Just skip the tinsel.

Choose durable plastic, wood, or metal ornaments over glass ornaments that can be broken and leave shards. Artificial spray-on snow is very toxic for pets and shouldn't be used anywhere that they can reach it. Better yet, keep your fur friend away while decorating – or busy with a favourite treat or new toy - and always unplug decorations when you are not home.

Holiday wrapping and gifts

Presents look festive under the tree, but wired ribbons, bows, wrapping paper can all spell trouble for your fur friend. If your pet gets at them, they could choke on or swallow them, which can cause internal damage or an intestinal blockage. Remember that the stuff packed inside those gifts can be harmful too. For instance, pets can choke on Styrofoam peanuts or shredded packing paper. Never leave a box of edibles, such as chocolate, under the tree either.

Keep food out of reach

Many holiday foods can be dangerous to pets including chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and alcohol. Make sure food is stored in containers or cabinets that your pet can’t access. Ask your guests not to give your pets any food, as well-intentioned scraps can still be harmful.

Other hazards

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society recommends keeping an eye out for other dangers including:

  • Wires and batteries. Keep them out of your pet’s reach. They pose a serious hazard if laying around.
  • Candles.If you have lit candles out, make sure they are never left unattended or where your fur friends can get to them. Not only can they start a fire if knocked over, but it can also cause serious injury.
  • Electrical cords. Keep cords away from chewing pets by taping them to walls, using cord protectors, or hiding them behind furniture.

Provide a Safe Space

Like us, pets can be overwhelmed or anxious during the holidays. Make sure your pet has a quiet space to retreat to when they need a break from the festivities such as a separate room, crate or cozy bed. Loud noises and crowds of people can all be stressful. Try to maintain a regular routine and avoid putting them into situations that might be too overwhelming.

No matter how closely you watch your fur friend, accidents can happen over the holidays. That’s when pet insurance can help you deal with the situation without expense being an overriding concern. If you believe your pet has ingested any item of concern, it is important to call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 animal poison control centre, at 1-800-213-6680 immediately.

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